This past weekend was our first time in Punta Cana. Yes. You read that correctly. In the five years that we’ve been in the Dominican Republic, it was our first time in Punta Cana. It’s laughable, I know. But the Dominican Republic has so many beautiful places to visit that we just weren’t in a rush until now. Life Bestie (celebrating 26 years of friendship) and her family were in Punta Cana this weekend and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to hang with them and check out where she was staying. After posting pictures on FB, a bunch of people reached out asking me my honest opinion of the Nickelodeon Resort in Punta Cana, so I figured I’d answer them all at once. (I should note that we didn’t stay at the hotel but were there on a day pass.)
ARRIVING WITH EASE to the Nickelodeon Resort in Punta Cana
Arriving was easy. We pulled up and told them we wanted to get a day pass. They called over the valet to take our car and then escorted us in to the lobby. The lobby sparkled and smelled like oranges. I loved that it looked like Nickelodeon but with a contemporary feel; a good balance of playful and chic. But my favorite part of the lobby experience was the playroom. Let’s be real here; we all know checking in with kids could be a straight up disaster and since Husband and I took some time deciding which day pass we would buy, the attached playroom set aside by glass doors, made checking in painless. I didn’t have to full name whisper-yell at either of our children to get back here because they were totally entertained with Ninja Turtles and playthings.
DAY PASSES to the Nickelodeon Resort
There were 2 options for day passes (kids under 4 are free). The first option was $85 which gave access to the pool, restaurants, and general hotel side. The other, at $125, also included access to Aqua Nick, the water park. Since we were there with Bestie and her family (and the resort included Rafa in the under 4 category – she’s 4) we splurged and paid for the water park access too. I’ll be honest (I told you you’d get my honest opinion), I’m glad we got the Aqua Nick access this time but being that most summers we spend time at my parents’ time share that has similar pool fun, I’d probably not pay for it again. (And I’ll come back to the water park restaurant, Aqua Bite later.)
“ALL I PLAN ON DOING IS EATING AND DRINKING.”
That’s what I had to say to Husband and Bestie about my plans for the day. So our first stop after surprising the kids with Tia Laura (Bestie) was to Sugar Cane, one of the on-site restaurants that she recommended. It was a glorious spread and though my son said he wanted “cereal with milk” I was not having it.
Dude. With all of this food you want cereal with milk?
No. Let’s go look at everything.
We walked around to each and every station to eye up and gush over the scrumptious looking options. The first thing that caught my eye was the fresh salmon and tuna section. I’m a sucker for lox and bagels so the mountain of fresh salmon was show stopping. Next, I spotted the crepes area. Hello, lover. Crepes, french toast, waffles, pancakes, NUTELLA, yum. Croquet-madame, breakfast chilaquiles, allllllll the bacon I could eat, and a coffee bar with flavored syrups and choice of Kahlua, Amaretto, Rum, Irish Creme, and then some. And of course, the mimosas. Did we have to go to the pool? Couldn’t we stay here all day?
Unfortunately, I’d say the lunch and dinner experiences were not as awesome. Since we were over at the water park around lunch time, we naturally decided to eat there at Aqua Bite. The options were pretty typical for a kids’ section restaurant so we ordered two cheeseburgers. They were fine. Nothing out of this world but good. The problem was with the waiting. It took a bit long to order and get our food and Bestie had an even worse time. She waited on line to order a pizza for an hour. I am not exaggerating – an hour – and then they mentioned that there was a separate line to order the pizza. Good to know… now. I’ve written many times about my love for DR but this is one of the frustrating inconveniences about here and pretty typical. Dude? There couldn’t be a sign letting people know where to go or where to order? There can’t be a proper line? It was disorganized and I don’t blame the poor guys behind the counter. It wasn’t a staff problem, it was a management problem. The poor guys back there were doing their best but it was, in my opinion, hugely understaffed. Especially considering the water park is the main attraction for the resort. I’m not sure if Bestie ever did get that pizza.
Because it was getting cloudy and Fresco was an outdoor restaurant (which smelled like grilled fish perfection), we skipped it for an indoor place. Lighthouse was meh. The service was fine and the decor was quite lovely but the food wasn’t anything worth talking about. Truthfully, I was pissed I didn’t eat at Sugar Cane for every meal that day.
NICKELODEON RESORT in punta cana AT A GLANCE
The resort property was quiet; it was hard to imagine anyone else was there besides us. For a family destination geared towards kids, the overall feel still had an adult element which I liked. I didn’t see the inside of any rooms but Husband did and his wide-eyed expression said it all: pretty dope. If the first floor rooms attached to a pool are any indication of the inside accommodations then I’m sure the accommodations are pretty darn glorious. And don’t get me started on the pool rooms located by a swim up bar! What?! Yeah. That exists. Imagine that… kids are asleep and you and Husband are in for the evening. Why not go for a swim since the pool is connected to your room terrace and the bar is 2 strokes away. You could go to the bar, get a drink, and get back to your room without ever leaving the pool. Me wants!
The grounds in general were lovely; well manicured, clean, and simple. It was one of those places that you could take a picture anywhere and it would look like the vacation of a lifetime. The child-sized lounge chairs in the little splash pool were my favorite detail. A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E !
AQUA NICK TIME – GOOD TIME OR WASTE OF TIME?
Like I mentioned, I was super glad we went to the Aqua Nick section this time. The lazy river was cool and the slides, splash park, and kid zone were a real blast for the kids. They loved every second of it. Our kids got to meet Donatello and Leonardo of the Ninja Turtles, which, at this very moment, happens to be my son’s favorite characters. And my daughter was ready, at 3:00, to be “SLIMED” (a nice Nick detail). The entertainers that worked to get the kids dancing and excited were fabulous.
I found the lounge chair situation similar to the restaurant situation: understaffed. Again, being that the water park is a main draw, I would think they’d provide more places to sit. We couldn’t find one open chair when we arrived and ended up setting our things on an open grass area with minimal shade on an August day in the Dominican Republic. #hot
All in all it was something the kids really enjoyed but an extra $40/adult is a bit hefty for us, especially when what the regular admission includes is totally great on its own. If you have the extra money or if your kids are free, I’d recommend it. And it’s a no brainer if you’re staying at the hotel and it’s included. It is certainly fun. I just don’t think I’d pay for it more than once on a day pass.
BEYOND KID TIME at the resort
Sitting at breakfast, drinking my mimosa(s), I overheard (ok, eavesdropped on) the lady next to me talking about a place that had caught my eye when we first entered called Vino Vino. So duh, of course, I noticed it. She said it was a piano and wine bar and totally do-able with kids. A wine bar? That you could bring kids to? It’s a good time to be alive. But if you don’t love the idea of taking them with you, the kids club is free and open until 11pm which is pretty sweet. The only catch is that it is not for kids under 4. And did I mention how much I love the idea of a pool attached to my patio? It not only gives parents a cool evening after the kids are asleep but it gives the kids a cool “backyard.”
It seemed everything at this place was designed not for kids or parents but for kids and parents.
As a reminder, my honest opinion of the Nickelodeon resort in Punta Cana is based on being there for the day on a day pass. I don’t have prices for rooms or suggestions on room type and my experience at each restaurant is based on this one time visit. I’ve heard there are some other cool features like yoga, Spanish lessons, cooking classes and, of course, the spa so definitely check those out if you stay there and let me know how it goes.
We really enjoyed ourselves and I would go back. The cons, in my opinion, were minor (minus the hour long pizza wait) and par for the course, considering it just opened 2 months ago and is still working out the kinks. Overall, our family had a blast.
And the mimosas.
Feature image: bestie via Made in Spanglish